New ReConnect grants: three include MN communities

USDA reports

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the Department is awarding $502 million in loans and grants (PDF, 221 KB) to provide high-speed internet access for rural residents and businesses in 20 states. The funding is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to investing in rural infrastructure and providing reliable, affordable, high-speed internet for all. USDA is making the investments through the third funding round of the ReConnect Program. The Department will make additional investments for rural high-speed internet in the coming months, including funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provides a historic $65 billion investment to expand affordable, high-speed internet to all communities across the U.S.

Three of the grants include communities in Minnesota

Winnebago Cooperative Telephone Association
Loan: 12,556,772
Grant: $12,556,772
This Rural Development investment will be used to deploy a fiber-to-the home network. This network will connect 3,597 people, 80 businesses and 458 farms to high-speed internet in Freeborn County in Minnesota. Winnebago Cooperative Telephone Association will make high-speed internet affordable by participating in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity and Lifeline programs

Upsala Cooperative Telephone Association
Loan: $3,275,879
Grant: $3,275,879
his Rural Development investment will be used to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network. This network will connect 1,595 people, 32 businesses, 101 farms, and one educational facility to high-speed internet in Morrison, Stearns, and Todd counties in Minnesota. Upsala Cooperative Telephone Association will make high-speed internet affordable by participating in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program by providing low-income consumers who qualify up to $30 monthly service credit

Spring Grove Communications
Loan: $5,707,048
Grant: $5,707,048
This Rural Development investment will be used to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network. This network will connect 983 people, 42 businesses, and 122 farms to high-speed internet in Allamakee and Winneshiek counties in Iowa and Houston County in Minnesota. Spring Grove Communications will make high-speed internet affordable by participating in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity and Lifeline programs

ReConnect to invest more than $1 billion in broadband – applications open now

The https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2022/09/09/biden-harris-administration-now-accepting-applications-1-billionUSDA reports…

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA is now accepting applications for ReConnect Program loans and grants to expand access to high-speed internet for millions of people in rural America nationwide. The Department is making more than $1 billion available, thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The program is a critical piece of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to connect every American to affordable, reliable, high-speed internet.

“Ensuring that the people of rural America are connected with reliable, high-speed internet brings new and innovative ideas to the rest of our country, and it remains a core priority for President Biden,” Vilsack said. “That’s why high-speed internet is an important part of USDA Rural Development’s work with rural communities. Reliable high-speed internet opens the world’s marketplace to rural business owners. It enables them to expand their businesses and give more jobs and opportunities to people in their own community.”

On Sept. 6, USDA began accepting applications for loans, with available funds of $150 million, grants with available funds of $700 million, and combination loan/grant awards using $300 million under the ReConnect Program. These funds were appropriated under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Governmentwide, the law provides an historic $65 billion investment to expand affordable, high-speed internet to all communities across the U.S.

The application deadline is Nov. 2. For additional information, see page 47690 of the Aug. 4 Federal Register (PDF, 231 KB).

USDA ReConnect Program Round 4 funding applications open Sep 6 to Nov 2

The USDA reports

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Under Secretary Xochitl Torres Small today announced that the Department will begin accepting applications on September 6 for funding to expand access to high-speed internet for millions of people in rural America nationwide, part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to investing in rural infrastructure and affordable high-speed internet for all. USDA is making the funding available under the ReConnect Program, which received new funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“High-speed internet connects people and businesses to new markets and helps people in rural America build brighter futures,” Torres Small said. “For too long, too many rural communities have been left out of the digital economy. This funding will help everyone in America – regardless of where they live – because rural people provide the everyday essentials our country depends on. Investments like the ones we are making through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will help close the digital divide across rural America.”

USDA is making additional funding available for high-speed internet in Round 4 of the ReConnect Program. The Department will begin accepting applications on September 6 for up to $150 million in loans, up to $300 million in loan/grant combinations, and up to $700 million in grants. The Department will use funds appropriated under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides a historic $65 billion investment to expand affordable, high-speed internet to all communities across the U.S.

The application deadline is November 2.

Nobles County commits $2 million match for ReConnect application for broadband

The Worthington Globe reports….

One week after discussing the potential expansion of fiberoptic broadband throughout Nobles County, commissioners on Thursday authorized spending up to $2 million on the project — if the county is awarded a significant USDA ReConnect grant to support the estimated $21 million project.

Lismore Cooperative Telephone Company is proposing to complete the project with assistance from Finley Engineering, the firm hired by the cooperative to design and build the system. LCTC built up much of the rural broadband that currently exists within Nobles County, and this would expand on their efforts by delivering fiber to another 2,900 locations, serving an estimated 6,300 residents.

Nobles County Board chairman Gene Metz stepped down from leading the meeting prior to the presentation, instead taking a seat alongside his fellow Lismore Telecom board members to promote the proposal.

More details…

The cooperative’s board last week stated it would contribute $2.5 million toward the project. Of the county’s $2 million — which would likely come from its American Rescue Plan Act allotment — commissioners said Thursday they want to ask townships impacted by the project to consider designating some of their ARPA funds to it as well.

Since Worthington, Adrian, Ellsworth and Brewster are already served by internet providers, this new project would boost service to the communities of Bigelow, Reading and Dundee.

Chris Konechne with Finley Engineering told commissioners that the construction project is estimated to be completed in three years, pending the grant. Up-front engineering would be done in 2022, and there’s roughly a 30-week lead time for materials currently.

Senators Smith and Klobuchar announce applications open for USDA ReConnect broadband grants

KTOE report

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, and Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) announced that the USDA has begun accepting applications for loans and grants to help people in rural areas access high-speed internet. This funding was awarded through the USDA’s ReConnect program, which supports high-speed broadband infrastructure projects to improve connectivity for rural communities.

“While the enactment of the bipartisan infrastructure law will go a long way to strengthen  our nation’s broadband infrastructure, right now 16% of households in rural Minnesota continue to lack broadband at baseline speeds,” said Klobuchar. “The ReConnect program provides rural Minnesotans with the resources they need to access high-speed internet so they can work, study, and connect with loved ones online. I strongly encourage those that are eligible to apply.”

“Access to high-speed broadband is the infrastructure of the 21st century,” said Smith. “COVID-19 has made it even more clear that reliable broadband is necessary for telehealth, distance learning, remote work and more. With this new funding, rural areas will be able to develop their infrastructure, and contribute to a resilient community. I will continue working to direct more federal dollars towards Minnesota infrastructure projects to ensure we are pursuing a comprehensive investment in rural communities.”

Eligible applicants are state, local or territory governments; corporations; Native American Tribes; limited liability companies; and cooperative organizations. ReConnect funding is available for projects that serve rural areas where at least 90 percent of the households lack broadband service at speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) (download) and 20 Mbps (upload). USDA will give funding priority to projects that will serve people in low-density rural areas and areas lacking internet access services at certain speeds.

Applicants must commit to building facilities capable of providing broadband service at certain speeds to every location in a proposed service area at the same time. In making funding decisions, USDA will also consider the economic needs of the community to be served; the extent to which a provider will offer affordable service options; a project’s commitment to strong labor standards; and whether a project is serving Tribal lands or is submitted by a local government, Tribal government, non-profit or cooperative.

Applications for funding must be submitted through USDA Rural Development’s online application system on the ReConnect webpage. For additional information, see the Oct. 25, 2021 Federal Register.